Haven Toronto’s family is mourning and in our time of profound grief, we wanted to share with all of you a little about our dear friend Fred. Who has left us far too soon.
“Where’s Fred?” asks Mike, a client of Haven Toronto. Mike is like a human punch clock at the downtown drop-in centre, at least when it comes to Fred in Finance. For years, Mike has made light of Fred’s relatively casual relationship with time. Fred has a history of being a little late in the morning, something those around him have grown accustomed to.
It’s almost fifteen minutes after nine. “Fred's comin’ in late,” concludes Mike who gets in another dig with, “Again.” Mike is right, again.
The result of light-hearted teasing among friends, there is joy in Fred’s pain - more of a cramp than a cut - and staff share a laugh with Mike during what is an almost daily routine for the sake of comedy and connectivity. The joke never gets old.
Today if you were to ask, "Where’s Fred?” you would discover he left early.
Too soon, actually.
Fred passed away just days ago. With family, friends, staff and clients distancing, news of Fred's death was made worse by the thought of him possibly dying alone, the inability for those left behind to gather to console each other, and the barriers to properly celebrate the life of a man who celebrated life.
Fred fit a lot into his time with us. He was a loving father, a devoted son, a creative musician, a prolific writer, a gourmet cook and a true friend to so many.
While Fred was in administration at the drop-in centre, it was not uncommon for him to engage with clients. While serving thousands annually, Haven Toronto is a small team and it is often all-hands-on-deck and that means stepping up to serve clients and maintain a rapport founded in respect and compassion. It is one of the reasons clients feel welcome and comfortable in the space. It might be as unique to Haven Toronto as Haven is to drop-ins; it is the only facility of its kind in Canada dedicated to serving elder homeless men age 50-plus.
As anyone in social services will tell you, working at a place like Haven Toronto isn’t a role that you turn-off at the end of the day. Just making your way to transit home, those you pass who are living on Toronto streets are a regular reminder of the depth of poverty, homelessness and despair. While an entire city might walk blissfully or blindly by, doctors, nurses, counsellors and support care workers - and Fred - see the vulnerable and at risk. It can wear on you.
Fred turned to a love of poetry, song writing and music to share his perspective and memorialize his feelings about the marginalized, vulnerable and impoverished. He had always been an ally of the isolated, had written enough songs to fill an EP and enough poems to fill a book. Not his first, either. Fred was an accomplished writer with published works dating back to the seventies.
When he wasn’t writing for himself, he was wordsmithing for others. It’s an art, Fred was an artist, and he made everything he touched better.
1953 - 2020